BANGLADESH: Chief Justice speaks out against the Executive usurping the power of the Judiciary

Bangladesh’s Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has made a rare public statement; he has said the Executive is usurping all the powers of the Judiciary. He called upon all the judges and lawyers to come forward and fight against the Executive’s attempt to control the entire State and its institutions and thereby usurp all the power of Judiciary.

Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha has publicly said:

“Beware of the executive; it is trying to take away all our powers. The judiciary and the legal profession have always raised their voice whenever such tendencies have surfaced in the past. If they don’t step forward to stop the executive’s bid to usurp all powers, who will?”

Justice Sinha made this statement at a book fair organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association on 10 January 2016 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Chief Justice Sinha’s remarks have been published by Bangladeshi media, including BD News 24 Dot Com, an online news agency of Bangladesh.

The Chief Justice went on to criticize the Bar Council for boycotting district courts on the ground that they are useless, rather than going for proactive action:

“I appeal to all lawyers, especially the seniors, to step forward. The Bar Council is not just about elections. Senior advocates who are respected in the profession must step forward and ensure the Council uses its rules to combat the failure to secure justice in the lower courts. Don’t be silent spectators! The lawyers across the country had earlier set ‘guidelines to establish the rule of law’ through council. Why don’t you do this now?”

About the independence of the Judiciary, Justice Sinha asked:

“Will the judiciary be freed if we only talk about it? We will also have to consider the charter [to ensure] the freedom of the judiciary. If you say the chief justice and the Supreme Court did not do anything – it won’t work.”

He said 350 judges could not sit in court for a lack of space. “If I don’t get enough money and financial freedom, how will I arrange space for the judges? How will I get them dispose of cases?”

He also called upon the lawyers to raise their voice over independence of the judiciary, instead of only seeking bail for their clients: “You are the conscientious people of society. If you only ask for bails instead of speaking about independence of the judiciary, where will we [exercise] that independence?”

Whatever differences the people may have against the Chief Justice, and the Judiciary itself for abdicating its power and failing to stand up to protect the rights of the people, it is time to leave aside all differences and rally behind the call made by the Chief Justice and re-establish judicial independence in Bangladesh.

It is perhaps at the final stage before the sinking of the ship that the captain is making this call. This call should therefore be taken with the utmost seriousness and the strongest possible response is necessary before it is too late.

Usurpation of all the powers of the Judiciary means the establishment of an absolutely authoritarian government. All those who fight against authoritarianism should stand up and be counted, now.

We also call upon the UN and all the world governments to take the words of the Chief Justice of Bangladesh with utmost seriousness and exert all pressures to stop the Executive from usurping the powers of the Judiciary. In short, the world is now called upon to stand behind the people of Bangladesh and prevent the emergence of a completely authoritarian system in the country.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-005-2016
Countries : Bangladesh,
Issues : Administration of justice, Democracy, Institutional reform, Judicial system, Prosecution system, Rule of law,